Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists

Ergonomics at the Office

Ergonomics is the science of matching the work to the worker. Office ergonomics includes workstation design, job design and the work environment. A poor fit between the worker and the environment causes physical and psychological stress, which can result in physical health problems and injuries to muscles, joints and nerves

Occupational therapists use ergonomics to ensure that individuals' occupations do not impede their health and well being.

Good ergonomics will…

Benefit employees with:

  • increased comfort,
  • improved morale and job satisfaction, and
  • improved work productivity.

Benefit employers with:

  • injury prevention,
  • early return to work,
  • reduced absenteeism,
  • decreased costs: (fewer sick days, lower compensation payments), and
  • improved worker morale.

Some general ergonomic tips to consider…

  • Look up and away from the monitor regularly, blinking your eyes, to reduce eye fatigue.
  • Avoid over-reaching, twisting and bending. Place frequently used work materials in a comfortable arc in front of you.
  • Fitness and consistent use of good posture is important to maintain a healthy spine. Participate in a regular fitness activity for flexibility, strength and endurance.
  • Regular work breaks can help prevent repetitive strain injuries by allowing time to stretch or change body positions. For continuous computer work, a break of 5 to 15 minutes per hour is generally recommended. Remember to alternate your tasks regularly.

These simple adjustments can make your job easier- try them!

1. When sitting adjust the chair height so that your knees are level with your hips. If your feet are not resting flat on the floor, use a footrest. If there is a difference in height between the keyboard and the writing surface, the seat height of the chair must be adjusted accordingly.

2. Adjust the lumbar support of the chair to support the curve in your low back. If not properly adjusted the normal "S" curve of the spine will be altered and this can create stress on the muscles and joints of the back.

3. Use the backrest of the chair for support to prevent muscle discomfort and fatigue. Avoid working in the forward position, or sitting on the edge of the seat without back support.

4. Maintain the normal "S" shaped curve of the spine. Ensure that your ear is in line with your shoulder, chin in. Avoid a "poking chin" posture as this places stress on the neck and shoulders.

It only takes a few minutes to make
sure your work station is a good fit for you!

5. Your forearms should be alongside your body, elbows at 90 degrees when using the keyboard and mouse. Wrists are in a straight line and not bent. Support arms with armrests.

6. Position the mouse or pointing device as close to the keyboard as possible. The mouse should be at the same level as the keyboard.

7. Locate the monitor straight in front of you, not off to one side. The top of the monitor screen should be at eye level.

8. Use a copyholder to place documents at eye level and near the monitor.

9. Position the computer with the window to your side to control light levels and glare.


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